Brooklyn politician Eric Adams has spent $20,000 in campaign funds to erect six giant billboards in Brooklyn and Queens promoting his “Stop the Sag!” campaign.
Thankfully, many people are seeing the ridiculousness of this campaign but one of my favorite quotes is by hip hop impresario Russell Simmons. You can see the full quote here:
There is no connection to saggy pants and the ability to succeed. Just look at what buttoned-up America has done to the rest of the world and each other.
Simmons, of course, is absolutely right. What gets glossed over in the campaign’s pithy slogan that “raising your pants” is simultaneously a move in “raising your self-respect” is the racialization of style and the pathologization of young men of color, who are imagined to be lacking in self-respect. And as we know from the self-help makeover culture we live in now, self-respect is believed to be the root of a multitude of social problems: obesity (watch just 15 minutes of Jillian’s proselytizing on The Biggest Loser if you need proof), teen sex (see: Dr. Phil), and yes, consumerism.
I’m not saying that a lack of self-respect isn’t ever motivating our behaviors but style choices and self-respect or the ability to succeed are not causally related. And saying they are is tantamount to racial-sartorial profiling. If there was a causal relation, my little sister who wore size 42 jeans nearly every day of her college and med school life – she fits into a size 6 dress – would not be the head of Anesthesia at UCSF hospital. (By the way, she’s still sagging today but mostly in her scrubs.)